Handle Your Emotions, Or They’ll Handle You

by Andy Wood on March 23, 2012

in Ability, Five LV Laws, Following Your Passion, Life Currency, LV Cycle, Principle of Freedom, Protecting Your Investment

Yes, this is me mocking my grandson. Or maybe Cason's mocking me. Hmmm.

Tucked away in the third stanza of a familiar hymn, Fannie Crosby penned these lines that were years ahead of her time:

Down in the human heart, Crushed by the tempter,

Feelings lie buried that grace can restore.

Except for the grace of God, every single one of us will go to our graves feeling guilty about our feelings.  Can you relate to any of these?

  • “I didn’t love my mother enough.”
  • “I hate my father.”
  • “I don’t like being a mother.”
  • “I will never forgive her as long as I live.”
  • “I love one of my children more than the other.”
  • “Why can’t he just die?”

One person has said, “Emotions are what we have the most of, and know the least about.”  One of the longest, and most frustrating searches that many people have is why do I feel the way I feel, and what can I do about it?

On the other hand, some people (stupidly) dismiss all that and passively allow themselves to be led around by their feelings as if they are helpless to do anything about them.  Ever hear something like this?

  • I can’t help it – it’s just the way I feel.
  • “It can’t be wrong if it feels so right” (from “You Light Up My Life”).
  • I know I should have, but I just didn’t feel like it.

Somewhere between feeling guilty and acting helpless about your emotions is the truth:  Feelings are great motivators, but terrible masters. Either we learn to handle them, are they will handle us.

Here are some general principles about your emotions:

1.  Everyone is emotional.

Ever hear some guy say, “I’m just not very emotional?”  Oh yeah?  Watch the power go out with two minutes to go in a close Super Bowl game, and let’s see how emotional he gets.

Usually, people who say they aren’t emotional are just saying that they can’t express the positive ones very well.  They can’t express love or use a lot of different words to describe their feelings.  But that doesn’t mean the feelings aren’t there.

2.  All emotions are God-given.

Name a feeling, and I can show you how God expresses it Himself and what its purpose is.  Even the so-called negative feelings have their place and purpose.  Hatred, jealousy, anger, fear, and anxiety, for example, all have value and have their place.

When God created you, he gave you the capacity to feel, and He did so for a reason.  To pretend otherwise is to try to re-create yourself in someone else’s image.

3.  All emotions are man-corrupted.

Name a feeling, and I can show you how people have screwed it up.  Love?  Ha!  Joy?  JealousyFear?  No feeling has escaped the inevitable stain of living in a fallen world.  That’s why we have such difficulty sometimes sorting them out.

Emotions are like loaded weapons.  Emotions in a fallen world are like walking across a bed of red-hot nails with loaded weapons and the school bully hollering at you that you’re a sissy.  Sooner or later, something is going to go off.

4.  Feelings follow thinking.

In the Bible, the subject of emotions isn’t dealt with specifically very much.  The primary word used is “heart,” and at different times it can mean different things.  But there is an unmistakable relationship between your thinking and your emotions.  All emotions are a reaction to a thought, mixed with a belief. You may or may not actually be conscious of the thought and belief.  But it’s there nonetheless.  And one of the ways to actually get a handle on the feelings is to find the associated thoughts and beliefs that support them.

5.  As the feelings go, so goes the body.

The purpose of the emotions is to stimulate the body to action.  God created your body to respond automatically to emotional stimulation.  Example:  One night the fam and I were relaxing at the house when the smoke alarm randomly went off.  Nearly always a false alarm or a mockery of my grilling skills, this time when I looked up I actually saw smoke.  Dear God, the house was on fire!  My pulse increased, my adrenal glands kicked into high gear, and my muscles started contracting, moving me to find the flame.  I opened the door to my son’s bedroom and found it pitch black with smoke.  Now the epinephrine kicked in and centered my brain on a simple solution to stop the fire, which was easily contained.

What was the feeling?  Fear.  What did the fear do?  Moved me to action.  That’s the way it’s SUPPOSED to work.  But you and I both know that it doesn’t always work that way.   Your emotions are always producing some chemical or neurological change in your body.  That’s why it’s so important to learn to handle your feelings in a healthy way.  Feelings don’t go away just because you hold them in.  They go down, and resurface weirdly sometime later.

6.  Emotional reactions are neither moral nor immoral.

They are just there.  It’s what you do with the feelings that matters.  Imagine walking down the sidewalk and you see an old friend coming the other way.  Imagine greeting your old friend with a smile and your former friend slugging you in the mouth.  Imagine your immediate feelings:

Surprise – “He hit me!”

Hurt – “My friend hit me.”

Fear – “He may hit me again!”

All of these are natural responses.  But still sometimes we wonder if we have “permission” to feel.  I was sitting in a support group one night and a lady there said something like, “Is it right or wrong to feel that way?”

Excuse me?  In their rawest forms, feelings are neither.  So I got all inspired (won’t blame this one on God) and wrote this little rhyme (CRUDE ALERT:  you can skip to the next point if you wish… don’t say I didn’t warn ya’.):

Feeling’s like farting, neither right or wrong.

They’re both made to pass, and can sometimes be strong.

They’re both rather normal, they can show up fast.

But you don’t have to stand on the table and blast!

7.  Some emotions are “second-hand” feelings.

Tina was right.  Love is a second-hand emotion.  She just didn’t need to be so cynical about it.  By “second- hand” I mean that before you feel them you feel something else first.  Second-hand emotions are nearly always a choice. The feeling is just as real, but you choose it nonetheless.  These second-hand emotions include anger, worry, and love.  No one ever makes you angry.  Nobody ever makes you worry.  And no one ever makes or breaks your ability to love them.  All of these, and maybe more, are choices you make.

8.  You are responsible for what you do with your feelings.

“I couldn’t help it” is no excuse.  Feelings are designed to stimulate you to action, but you have choices and are accountable for the choices you make.

Every moment of every day, somebody on this planet is so angry they could commit murder.  But they don’t.

Every moment of every day, someone is so remorseful they could kill themselves.  But they choose not to.

Every moment of every day, somebody is feeling anxious about the future.  But they choose not to take counsel of their fears.

I’ll take it one step further.  Your life today is the result of the choices you have made, one way or the other, in response to your feelings.  And your life next year will be the result of the choices you make in response to the feelings you have right now.

 

I want to end where I started.  Regardless of the level of your reeling from feelings, the grace of God is greater than the fruit of your choices.  And if your emotional world has become shattered, enslaved, or otherwise crushed by the tempter, God’s grace can heal and restore.  When was the last time you feltfree?  Relieved?  Joyful? Comforted?

Those are feelings, too.

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